Tuesday, December 28, 2010


The holidays are on their way out and a new year is on its way in!  What better way to start a new year than by getting something for free????? Or should I say, what better way to start a new year than by some things for free????

January 21-22, 2011 marks the Arizona Family History Expo in Mesa, Arizona.  I have several reasons to be happy about this: I get to share my experiences with researching my ancestors as people with others as a presenter! I will speak about the role of culture in our research and about the use of genograms in genealogical research. 

The Az Family History Expo offers my three classes free to those who pay for either a day pass or a full Expo pass. It also offers 97 other topics!  Yes, you heard me right, NINETY-SEVEN. That makes an even 100 workshops. There literally is something for everyone. And there's more: The exhibit hall presents the genealogy enthusiast, hobbyist, and professional with a plethora of tools, information and materials that make our task much more fun, and easier to boot!

Now another BIG reason for me to be excited about this year's Expo: I get to give away TICKETS to the Expo.  Here is your chance to win TWO FREE TICKETS to this year's Family History Expo:  Send me an email at omchodoy-at-yahoo-dot-com and answer one of the following questions:

1.  What is currently your biggest brick wall in your genealogy research?
2.  To date, what has been your biggest genealogical accomplishment? Describe how you did it!
3.  What is/are your genealogical goal(s) for 2011?

The winner of the TWO FREE TICKETS to the 2011 Az Family History Expo will be decided based on a random drawing of all entries received before Wednesday January 5th! 

Disclaimer: I am both a presenter and a Blogger of Honor at the 2011 Az Family History Expo. As such I receive compensation in the form of a paid entrance to both days of the conference. My promotion of the Expo is both expected and willingly provided; however what I post about it is entirely up to me and I do not receive any compensation for what I post. I promoted the Expo in 2010 without any expectation to do so, and anything I do post is a product of my own experience.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Advent Calendar: SHOPPING!

One thing I've always hated about Christmas shopping, was trying to figure out what to get people. My parents were easy enough; they liked (or pretended to like) anything we bought them.  My middle brother wasn't too difficult, either: I always managed to find a good sweater or shirt that suited his personality and color schemes. My oldest brother, however, well, that was a different story.  I never knew what to get him. If I asked him what he wanted he'd either say "Nothing" or worse, "A bowling ball" or "Golf clubs", which was worse than him saying "Nothing" because they were items way too expensive for my cashier's wages.

As I grew older I learned that getting gifts that mean something to the recipient was the ultimate Christmas Shopping experience. Christmas 2009,  I must admit, was the easiest year I've ever had in terms of deciding what to get. My dad had been living with me for three years, and he was getting to that point where reflection on the life he'd lived was a common topic of conversation. 

One day I was searching Facebook for childhood friends, and cam upon a FB page for "Colonial Village Elementary School" where I went as a child.  On that page was a link to the FB page for the Lewiston #2 Fire company, where my dad spent many years as a volunteer firefighter.  As I was browsing the photos on that page I saw a T-Shirt for the station members that I thought dad would just love. So I FB messaged a member of the Fire Hall listed on the page. I asked if I could purchase a T-shirt for my father and explained that he had been a volunteer firefighter there and that the Fire Hall played a big part in my family's life when we'd lived in Niagara Falls.  The response I received from the member and her husband was they'd try to see if any t-shirts were left and if so, they'd send one. They could promise a fire hall patch either way.

About a week and a half later a package came with a t-shirt and a patch. I wrote to the fire hall's contacts I'd written thanking them and asked how much to send them and where. I was told to offer it too my father as thanks for his service.  Knowing the Fire Hall and it's members still hold on to the values of the Village in which I was raised was a great Christmas Present in itself.

I wrapped up the T-shirt and patch for Christmas. I also searched the Fire Hall's webpage and created a little booklet about the Lewiston # 2 Fire Department's history.   I couldn't wait to give him his gifts! As another pleasant surprise, I was browsing Barnes and Noble that same week and stumbled, quite by accident, upon a coffee table book on Firefighters, published by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. It is a fascinating book on the history of firefighting and some really great photographs. 

As it turned out, Christmas 2009 was to be my father's final Christmas on this earth, as he'd fallen ill about a month later.  He was so proud of his firefighter gifts! And, though I've always been excited to give gifts to others, no single Christmas drove home the Reason for the Season for me than Christmas 2009.

Thank you, Lewiston #2 for giving my father a gift he was truly proud of. (P.S.: I still have the t-shirt and wear it occasionally).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Advent Calendar: Charitable Work

Growing up, we didn't do much volunteer work at Christmas time. We put more efforts into volunteer work throughout the year than we did at Christmas, mostly through the fire hall.  I grew up on Garlow Road in Niagara Falls, NY. We lived in the Town of Lewiston and my father was a volunteer firefighter at Lewiston #2 Fire Department for many years.  The entire station was volunteer based, and still is.

We also tried to help people out as the need arrived. The winter of 1977, our last in Niagara Falls before moving west to Tempe, Az, was especially trying. There was a huge blizzard that year that not only closed down the schools for weeks, it closed down the entire city.  Advisories were released pretty much banning non-rescue persons from being on the streets. A family we'd known experienced a major pipe freeze and burst in their home, and we were able to take them in for a while.  I remember how stressed my mother was, what with her own three children plus the two children I think it was, that the family had.  But I also remember her saying that regardless of how stressful it was for us, it was more stressful for the displaced family.

The clinic where I work participates in the Toys for Tots (TFT) program every years as a distributor of gifts to families in need.  We are only able to distribute to the families who use our clinic but we refer to community agencies for those we hear about that need the help but are not our families.  It's such a worthy cause, and it's so simple in theory.

In recent times, however, the TFT program has really been hurting.  Last year our clinic had 850 families signed up for the program, but the program was only able to provide a few hundred toys.  Our clinic is fortunate to have a generous Board and a very generous philanthropic foundation, Square and Compass, to assist and we were able to provide for the needs of our families. My father purchased several toys last year and took them to the local fire station that serves as a collection site for Toys for Tots. I wish I had been there to see this; his telling of his "adventure" was precious and I know he was proud to be part of the program. And to drop them off at a fire station, well, that was just icing on the cake!

This year we have over 1,000 kids signed up, and our Board and foundations will once again assist in meeting the need. If you have similar programs near you, please sign up for either it or other similar programs to help elderly people have some surprises at Christmas.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Advent Calendar: Christmas Collections

Christmas brings so many memories, and for me, almost all of them are wonderful.  The season is full of things I love: Food, Cookies, Decorations, Trees, Christmas Cards. Music, Snow (well, it used to be anyway).  It is also a time for me to showcase my favorite collections.  The best collection in my possession is my collection of these:
I have about 35 nutcrackers.  I started the collection several years ago when I found collectible "Nutcrackers Around the World" at the Robinson's May After-Christmas sales.  I started with two: Ireland and German, which are shown in the photo below, the third and fourth from the right: 
What is/are your Christmas Collections? (I have another collection, which I'll save for a later Grab Bag from the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories).

It's a coming, It's a coming....

This will be my third consecutive year attending the Arizona Family History Expo in Mesa.  Last year was my first year as a presenter, and this year I've been invited to present again.  I've also been given the opportunity to be a Blogger of Honor at this year's event.  I'm thrilled to associate with the Geneablogging community, and this is an exciting opportunity.

Last year I facilitated a presentation entitled "When Past Meets Present to Change the Future: Using Genograms in Genealogical Research".  This year, that same talk will be the third of my presentations. I chose to repeat it this year because it makes a very good "wrap-up" to my two new presentations, which is a two-parter entitled "Learn About YOU by Learning About Them: The Role of Culture in Genealogical Research".  As you can tell, I like long titles!

In my professional life, I am a social worker. I work with children, teens and young adults who have complex health care needs and/or disabilities.  I want to know more about people than their names, dates of birth and ages.  I want to know who they are, what makes them able to manuever through this life, and what lessons they can teach me. 

My genealogical goals are much the same: I want to know who my ancestors were as people: What did they look like? What were their interests? What traits might they have had that I share? These goals and my professional training lead me to the topics I wish to explore.

I hope to see many of you in Mesa next month. And to increase the chances of my seeing you there, I will have a few incentives to give a few people. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Advent Calendar: Santa Claus

I remember believing in Santa Claus.  It was so magical! Unless I was going to sit on his lap, then it was terrifying. So terrifying that, in fact, I never sat on Santa's lap.Even when Santa turned out to be Grandpa, I wouldn't go.  But I sure believed in him and I sure as heck did my best to please him.

One year on Christmas Eve we were heading home from Grandma and Grandpa McHugh's house.  We were driving along the reservoir when all of a sudden I saw it: Santa's sleigh. We were close to home by the time I saw him, complete with Rudolph's glowing nose!  I remember yelling at dad, who was driving: "Hurry! He's over our house and if we're not in bed before he goes down the chimney he'll pass us by!!".

Well, okay, so I don't remember saying those exact words, but that was the jist of my incessant screaming.

We got home, we went to bed, and we woke up to presents.

I presume the children of the helicopter pilot that was flying over our house the night before got their presents, too.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

ADVENT Calendar Day 2: Holiday Food

This is a repost from my December 2007 Advent Calendar posts at The Oracle Of OMcHodoy.  Yesterday I messaged several of my cousins, including those on the Hodick/Kovaleski lines, asking if anyone knew of any foods or recipes from the grand and great-grandparents. My first cousin Sue remember Kanaidels (I'm usually a good speller, but not with German words!), but no recipe yet.

Oh how I wish I could remember what food Grandma (HODICK) McHUGH used to put out! I remember very little, however, other than the cookies. So I asked dad to help me out a little.

Christmas Eve was when we got together at Grandma and Grandpa McHUGH's house. My parents, two brothers and I would go, as well as my dad's sister, Aunt Norie and her husband, Joe and their two children Paul and Susan. And of course, Aunt Maryann was there, too.

To dad's recollection, Grandma always served Ham, Potatos, Sauerkraut and carrots as the main meal. The only part of this I remember is the Sauerkraut.

I also  have a recollection of -- God help me on the spelling here -- Pfeffernuesse Cookies (thank you, Google): those soft-ish ginger type round cookies covered in powdered sugar(pictured above, courtesy of www.marions-kochbuch.de/rezept/1462.jpg).  She also had peanut butter cookies and something dad thought was called something like Kalochi. 

The only other food thing I remember about Christmas at Grandma McHugh's were the hard ribbon candies. She had those every year, in every corner of the house! Candy canes, too. Last year I saw a tin of those ribbon candies and just had to buy some for old times' sake.

Christmas dinner at the O'ROURKE's house, if I remember correctly, was traditional turkey dinner. Turkey, stuffing, potatos/gravy, the whole thing.

A few years ago some friends and I decided to have a Christmas Cookie exchange. I learned quickly that I do not know how to bake. I wound up tossing the sugar cookie I attempted to make and going to Target to get some Christmas Tins with cookies in them. For the recipe I had to bring with my cookies, I typed up the instructions for driving to Target to get the tins!

I have since learned how to make the Mexican Wedding Cake type cookies and those other cookies that have the Hershey Kiss in the middle. And this year I learned how to make pumpkin rolls!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent Calendar: The Christmas Tree Then and Now

Nearly every year right after Thanksgiving, mom would put up the Christmas Tree while dad would put up the outside lights.  When we were old enough, we were assigned to help mom.  It was more than a little task of unfolding groups of branches (we had artificial trees as far back as I can remember):
You can see that the tree is loaded with ornaments, envelopes, garland, and icicles. But underneath the tree was the real treat: On the left side of the tree (as you look at it) were houses, a school, a library, and even an ice rink with skaters. On the right is a church and attendees.  It was all connected by a walking path (made of dirt if there'd not yet been any snow and coffee if it had snowed) with mountain paper in the background. Most of the village buildings and the church, and the mountain paper belonged to my father's mother Mary HODICK when she was young.  It was passed down to my father, and I believe then to my middle brother. It's very sad for me to say this, but I have no idea whatever happened to this village set.

Fast forward 35 + years (yikes) and I still spend the day(s) after Thanksgiving putting up the Christmas decorations. I usually start with the outside and work my way in.  You can see dramatic differences between our tree then and my tree now:
It's still an artificial tree (with my lack of a green thumb I'd burn the house down with a dry tree within a week).  Only now it's pre-lit so I don't have to struggle with strands of lights on the inside of the house like I do on the outside. But you will see only beaded garland on my tree, not tinsel garland. And you will never see icicles on my tree: Not only is tinsel and icicles a huge no-no when  you have a destructive chewer dog like Izzie, I simply have no desire to keep picking up the icicles into the following JUNE! And not only are the majority of my ornaments on the upper portion of the tree (the lights make it look less obvious when they're turned on), there is nothing under the tree except the skirt -- WHICH, I'll have you know, I've not been able to have in the first four Christmases with Izzie! And I will not be able to put presents under my tree as long as I have my paper-loving dog living with me.

I hope it's a long stretch of time before I can put presents under the tree again!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

There's One in Every Family

Of course, one might ask, there's one what in every family?  And my answer would be, there's one of everything in every family :).  But for my re-entry into the world of blogging I am referring to there's one "black sheep" in every family.  Here is mine. Or should I say, is this mine?

When I was in school we had to do one of those "trace your family tree" projects that many, if not most, children wind up doing as part of a school project. Only mine didn't come until I went back to college in my thirties!  During the course of conversation with my father it'd come out that there were a couple of stories in his family about some serious lawbreakers.  One was on my father's maternal line (HODICK) and one on his paternal line.  The legend was that a Hodick had been arrested and later hanged in Kansas for stealing horses.  The other was that a McHugh ancestor was involved in the Molly Maguires and as part of that activity had been arrested and later hanged.

Now I've found nothing to support the story that a Hodick had been hanged in Kansas for stealing horses. But I did find some references to a Peter McHugh having been involved with the Mollies and had taken part in the murder of Alexander Rae in 1869 (The Trial of the Molly Maguires: A Chronology; Northumberland County Area History: The Molly Maguires).  It is unknown if Peter McHugh was an ancestor of ours, but there certainly are a couple of coincidences: Our McHughs were coal miners in NE Pennsylvania. Stories of our grandfather's and great-grandfather's involvement in the Mollies exist across branches of the McHugh line. Certainly circumstantial at best. But enough coincidences to claim a corner of our genealogical brains as research progresses.

As I read different accounts of the trial of Frederick Hester and his co-conspirators to include the above mentioned Peter McHugh I discovered many of my ancestral names surrounding the Northeast Pennsylvania Mollies: McHugh, Doyle, Kehoe and Donahue/Donahoe.  The latter three surnames belong to my maternal lines. Perhaps I'm *lucky* and have multiple ones in my family?

Researching black sheep during one's genealogy research can be exciting, but it can also be very difficult. First, families often keep such black sheep a secret, making the process of gathering an oral family history touchy if not downright impossible. Second, you also have to deal with the occasional question of "Why would you want to claim such a character as one of yours?".  As genealogists we have to remember that our goal is not to boost ourselves up because of an elite lineage, but to understand the history of our family. History is history.

This article was posted for the 100th issue of The Carnival of Genealogy. Congratulations to Jasia for an amazing feat and thank you for all you do for the geneablogging community.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Grandparents' Day 2010

Today is Grandparents' Day in the United States.  For me, this day has for far too long meant remembering my grandparents: My longest-surviving grandparent died in 1978, when I was 14 years old.  I often find myself a little jealous of my 40-something-year-old friend whose grandmother is still alive with her mind pretty much intact.  But the lack of living grandparents means not that I dwell in that jealousy, but that I celebrate the grandparents I knew as a child and the grand- and great-grandparents I never knew.

My paternal grandparents Mary (HODICK) and Joseph McHUGH ca 1925.

 Followed by my paternal grandparents 40 years later.

 Mary's parents, my great-grandparents Justina (NAHODIL) and Edward HODICK in 1918.

 Edward and Justina ca 1950.

 My maternal grandparents, Regina "Jean" (DOYLE) and James O'ROURKE, with my mother. Ca 1942.

 James O'ROURKE, who died in 1963 before I was born.

My maternal grandmother's family ca 1910. Grandma Jean is believed to be the girl sitting on the matriarch's lap, my great-grandmother Jane/Jennie (McCUE). At far right is my great-grandfather, John J. DOYLE. The others in the photo include my grandmother's siblings Margaret and Blanche, along with some combination of their sons Thomas, Vincent, William, Joseph and James. Anna was likely not yet born.

Labeled as "Ma Doyle, and thought to my my mother's maternal grandmother, Jane/Jennie (McCUE) DOYLE.

My mother's paternal grandparents, Mary (KEARNS) and James O'ROURKE, along with daughters  Margaret (Nelly), Mary (Mae) and Betty.

My mother's paternal great-grandparents Bridget (DONAHUE) and John KEARNS with their children Mary, Winifred, Genevieve, Lawrence, Jeremiah , John and Francis.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Fruits of Their Labor

Labor Day was first observed in the United States in the state of New York, in the city of New York, as a result of a movement put forth by the Central Labor Union. It was celebrated on Tuesday, 5 Sep 1882. The movement to make Labor Day a national observance initially took hold in 1885 and 1886 when municipalities began passing ordinances setting aside the first Monday in September to honor American workers.  It wasn't until June 28, 1894 that Congress passed legislation making that day a holiday (U.S. Dept. of Labor).

Labor Day is important to me because my family has always been proud of our history in the American work force.  Our ancestors were mostly laborers who worked hard.  My paternal lines from Nanticoke, Luzerne County, PA were generally coal miners, though the military and hotel fields were also a part of the Hodick line.  The McHugh line was made up of more coal miners. 

My maternal lines were often listed in the U.S. Census records as coal miners; however railroading was also in the O'Rourke blood, including my mother's brother, Jimmy, who retired from the railroads.  My maternal workers also hailed from Luzerne County, in Pittston.

My parents were also very hard workers. Dad held a variety of jobs throughout his life.  In Niagara Falls he worked for several years at a company known as Carborundum, I believe as a draftsman.  He's worked as a dispatcher, a beer truck driver, and as office personnel for a furniture company.  As children, my brothers' and my favorite of dad's jobs was as a garbage man for Countryside Disposal.  This was in the 1970's, in the days when garbage men rode on the backs of the trucks and manually emptied the trash cans into the truck.  He came home with the coolest stuff: Binders and portfolios, office supplies, a dishwasher.  My mother, I must say, was not the least bit pleased when he brought home a drum set!
My mother worked in business.  In Niagara Falls I can only remember her working for J.D. Calato's, a company that made drumsticks for some pretty darn famous rock 'n rollers! Odd how she hated that drum but brought us home some drumsticks! My middle brother and I loved this job of hers because she brought home stamps from all over the world and Terry and I used to have stamp collections.  In Arizona, my mother worked for a hospital, Diamonds (now Dillards), and mostly, for Greyhound Exposition Services as an office manager.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Saturday Night Genealogical Fun: Place Lines

Randy Seaver of GeneaMusings, known for many things genealogical, has a fund topic for tonight's Saturday Night Genealogical Fun: Place Lines.  This is much like a Time Line that shows where people were at any given time in history, only this time we'll pick someone on our tree to trace the places that were important to them over time.

I should choose myself since I certainly know most about where I was over time, and since I just added a new place for myself in history.  But in order to refocus myself on my genealogy, I'm going to choose the Hodick family.  Some will be speculation, some will be known.

Edward Hodick is believed to have been born in October of 1867. Oral family history told the tale of his birthplace as Bavaria.  However,  the 1900, 1910, 1920,and 1930 U.S. Census records identify Austria/Bohemia as his place of birth.

A passenger list for the ship Pennland in 1885 lists an Edward Hodick, age 18, traveling to "Tomhicker" Pennsylvania with a Franz and Anna Hodick and other Hodick children.  It is believed but not proven that this Edward Hodick was my great-grandfather.

We do know that as of Census time in 1900, Edward Hodick and his wife Justina and their four children were living in Washington Township in Crawford County, KS.  Edward's occupation was listed as coal miner.  The family remained in Kansas at least until 1910, as this year's Census finds the family in Frontenac, also in Crawford County, KS.  Interesting to note is the fact that Edward's occupation in this year was listed as a farmer; most other records indicate that Edward was a coal miner. Their oldest son, William, married a Clara and lived for a while in Frontenac.  It is believed that at some point he made his way back to PA, then went off to California.

By 1918 the Edward Hodick family was living on Prospect St. in Nanticoke, Luzerne County, PA.

1920 finds Edward and family on Front Street in Nanticoke while in 1930 they were found on Center Street.  At some point between these two census years, Edward owned a hotel business, possibly on Market Street

At some point after 1930, the Hodick family, at least in some portion, migrated to Niagara Falls, NY.

To this date, members of the Hodick family remain in Northeastern PA.  Their offspring from Mary, my grandmother, spread out from there to Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia.

Kansas ca. 1900-1915. Edward Hodick, believed to be third from left as you look at the picture.

The Hodick family in 1918, Nanticoke, Luzerne Cty, PA. Sitting in front: Sylvestina (Vesta), Edward Jr.  Sitting in the middle of second row: Edward and Justina Hodick.   Standing in back on either side, l-r: Mary (my grandmother) and Susan. Unidentified males:  William, Joseph, Anthony, Thomas and John.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Company Store

At the beginning of this series I'd posted a link to Tennessee Ernie Ford singing "Sixteen Tons", a song which laments the life of a coal miner.  A mainstay in the song are the lyrics "I owe my soul to the company store".   This refers to the lifestyle differences between the mere coal mine workers and the "esteemed" coal mine honchos. 

Back in the heyday of coal mining, the mine owners didn't just own the mines, they owned the towns in which they were located.  The miners lived in company owned homes, shopped at the company owned store, and, in many ways, were kept hostage by the company itself.  Often the miners' pay went straight to the company to pay the rent and heating.  Credits were given at the store, which took payment directly from the miners' wages. 

Eckley Miner's Village is a prime example of a coal mining town, complete with the company store and a doctor's office. You can take a virtual tour of this popular Pennsylvania "attraction" on the website (the links to the videos were not working for me tonight, but I have seen them before so if a link doesn't work for you, try again later).  Eckley is one of my "must-see" spots in PA if I ever make it there for my genealogy trip: My paternal grandmother and her family lived there after they'd returned to PA from Kansas in around 1915.

As we learned last week, miners' pay was generally dependent upon the amount of quality coal they brought in.  If there was too much slate in the coal car of a miner, that miner's pay was docked. Given this and the practice of the coal company taking certain deductions from the miners' pay to cover their rent and food, it was really tough for someone to move up and move on; putting money aside was just not an easy thing to do even outside of the low wages to begin with.

But you better believe that if a miner wasn't pulling his weight, it was easy for the boss to get rid of him!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Why I Love the Internet

My ancestors in the United States, at least those born prior to 1930, were relatively easy to find (sorry for the unintended pun).  That is because until the 1930's or so, family members grew up to live near family members, thus limiting the number of different locations in which to look.  After the 1930's, however, people started to stretch across the country.  First we had relatives move from Luzerne County, PA to the Chicago area. Others migrated to Niagara County, NY. Over time the distances between relatives grew to Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia, and then to Houston and Virginia.  With the time that has passed and the distance that has grown, keeping up with my immediate family was rather tough, let alone keeping up with cousins I'd known or meeting cousins I hadn't. This was a big country, after all.

Until the Internet came along.  The Internet gives a whole new meaning to the song "It's a Small World After All".  Since beginning my genealogical journey I have been able to reconnect with old friends and cousins. Through my Internet adventures here on my blogs, at RootsWeb.com, at Ancestry.com, and through Facebook, I have gained family connections that I hope make my ancestors proud, as second cousins and third cousins three times removed have managed to "meet" and become friends. 

This evening I went to the post office to check my PO Box, which I took out after a recent move.  As I was walking to my box I was suddenly struck with a blast of sadness as something there ... I don't even know what ... made me think of dad.  I had to brush away a tear and I didn't quite know what set it off.  But alas, it was short lived.  I checked the box and found a key to one of the "package" bins.  Inside the bin was a box from a second cousin in Pittston, PA, who found me through her and her son's research several years ago.  She'd been reading my blog for quite some time (and I suspect often disappointed in the gaps between posts over the past year or two) and sent me an email about my recent series on the History of Anthracite Coal Mining in NE Pennsylvania.  I keep meaning to respond but time seems to escape me. 

Anyway, the item in the box that I found inside my the P.O. bin made my tear fade and my face and stomach roar with laughter:

Straigt from the culm bank in Hughestown, PA.  Thanks, Joyce.  You really made my day. And sorry I've been so negligent lately.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

How the Earth was Won in the Coal Region

The demand for clean coal in the 19th and early 20th centuries was great, and, as learned last week, the coal industry of Northeastern Pennsylvania reached far beyond the reaches of our shores to those of the U.K., Ireland, and Eastern Europe.  Immigrants from these regions and more flocked to Pennsylvania to land a job in what is still today one of the more dangerous professions.

Coal mining is dangerous for many reasons.  The bulk of the work was done underground in cold, dark, and dank conditions.  It was not work for the claustrophobic.  The use of explosives brought dangers of its own, plus the added dangers of the earth caving in, water flooding in, and trouble getting out for those caught inside at the time of the incident. 

Coal mining was also not always a guarantee of pay.  If you were one of the laborers in the mines, setting off explosives and loosening the coal, your pay was dependent upon the amount of coal you brought in, and penalties were steep if the quality was less than what the mine bosses wanted.
Technology wasn't always so complex, but it always made life a little bit easier, a little bit safer, and/or a little more profitable in the long run.  The coal mining industry of the late 1800's and early 1900's benefitted from techonology in a way we would scoff at today, but miners underground credited with saving their lives.
Over time, alternate fuel sources diminished the need for coal, and thus coal miners. But the field of coal mining is not dead, as we've been so tragically reminded these past few months and even years.  Coal remains a valuable resource; thus there continues to be a need for miners willing to lay it on the line below the earth on which we trod.
Next up:  The company store!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Lure of .... Coal?

This post is the first in a series that will focus on some aspect of Anthracite Coal Mining in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  Today will be a basic history lesson into how this industry transformed the area that lured my ancestors to the New World.

Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) is the number one producer of Anthracite coal in the Western Hemisphere (ExplorePAHistory.com).  Anthracite coal is different from bituminous coal as the former is harder and more pure.  Anthracite coal was "the" green thing of its day.

But NEPA didn't get it's fame from coal mining without other industries paving the way.  In order to make this cleaner burning coal available, it had to be made accessible first to those who would mine and prepare it (and for some, get rich from it) and then to the consumers who would use it.  This was accomplished first by the creation of canals that linked the  mines to the rivers within the NEPA counties of Carbon, Schuykill, Luzerne and Lackawanna and then to cities in further reaches.  The boom of the railroad also was vital to the popularity of anthracite coal,as the rails could reach beyond the scope of the waterways of the northeast region of the United States.

When it became apparent that anthracite coal would revolutionize the heating of America, the corporate honchos with the vision to take advantage of the area knew they would need a labor force that would expand their dream for miserable wages.  Immigrants from Scotland, Ireland, England and Germany flocked to the region.  After the Civil War, the need grew even more and miners from Poland and Lithuania were brought to the front lines of the Anthracite Coal Mining region. The 1880's brought an influx of miners from the regions of Slovak, Ukraine, Russia, Hungary, Greece, Serbia and Italy (from "Black Diamonds", www.pacoalhistory.com/history/migration.html). 

It was during this time frame that my paternal ancestors appeared in the United States, in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, in the heart of the anthracite coal mining industry. Some came from Ireland, others from within the regions of Hungary and/or Czechoslavakia. 
Orphan Photo of girls at a Coal Breaker, possibly from
the Truesdale Mines in PA.
(photo in the collection of Colleen E. McHugh, Tucson, Az)

Next in the series: How the coal was mined.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I Was Born Coal Miner's Granddaughter

A few years ago I was talking to my father's first cousin Tom.  We'd connected  not through sharing a history together, having both lived in Niagara Falls, NY, where he still lives, but through the research I've been doing over the years.  During this one particular phone conversation Tom had mentioned that he and his wife had gone to Luzerne Cty, PA from where my families hailed.  He took a tour of a coal mine while he was there and was telling me how impressed he was with the history involved with coal mining.  Several of our ancestors had died in mine accidents, and the tour he took gave him a good understanding of what  our cousins and uncles had endured (not to mention their wives and children, who had their own burdens to share).  Tom closed his conversation with me with one simple statement: "Colleen, we come from hardy stock". 

For some odd reason I found myself rather  humbled with the news of recent coal mine accidents in China and in West Virginia. I decided that it was high time some attention was paid to the job of coal miner, so I decided to embark on a little research. I am going to start some research into coal mining with a focus on Anthracite Coal from Northeastern Pennsylvania since that is where my family did their minng.  I will include a little history, a little resources on the web, and hopefully a lot of pictures. 

I invite my fellow geneabloggers and my relatives who may be reading this to submit to me any photos and/or stories about their families' experiences in the coal mines. If you submit a photo or story, please do so via my email (omchodoy-at-yahoo-dot-com) and include your name as you want it credited in the series, along with any known names in the photos or stories.

While we're waiting for this blog series to begin, I leave you with a musical hero of miners everywhere. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Tennessee Ernie Ford. Video available via www.youtube.com, user LordEgan.

Friday, March 19, 2010

In Living Color

I, along with a large percentage of the genealogy community, have been glued to the television on Friday evenings since the beginning of the NBC series, Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA). Each week a celebrity's search for his/her ancestors is featured. The first week they featured Sarah Jessica Parker, and last week it was Emmitt Smith's turn.  Great episodes, though I have to admit to wanting to go re-watch Emmitt's since I missed part of it. 

But I think that tonight's episode is going to be very hard to beat.  Tonight they featured Lisa Kudrow. I'm not sure what made tonight's episode so personal to me, given that I have no known Jewish ancestors and no known link to the Holocaust. But I found myself riveted to the television like I haven't been in a very long time.  Tonight's episode was more than a search for someone's family history, it was a search for someone's family story

Yes, there were stories in the other episodes, and I imagine there will be stories in the episodes to come.  But I made a connection with Lisa Kudrow tonight as I watched her travels.  One of her comments, while she was in Illya, was to the effect of "This is where she walked, this is what she'd seen when she lived".  I found myself brought back to the time, about five years ago, when I was first going through my family's old photographs, in sepia tone or black and white. By the time I finished sorting the photographs and scanning them into my computer I actually had to remind myself that, while the pictures were in black and white, life has always happened in color. I couldn't fathom what these people and places looked like in color.

Ever since this early genealogical time I have longed for the chance to go back to Pittston and Nanticoke in Luzerne County PA so I can see where my grandparents and great-grandparents lived, worked, walked, and played. In true, living color. Perhaps one day I'll get the chance to make that trip. Dare I even dream to go back to the places where my great-grandparents were born and raised? To learn about their lives in their countries and try to grasp the historical basis for their leaving their homelands? I guess maybe this is why Lisa Kudrow's story touched me so deeply ... it was a true search for the story of the people that made her Lisa.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Women of OMcHodoy

March is Women's History Month, and this month's edition of "Smile for the Camera" asks us to sing the praises of the unsung heroines of our ancestry. Without further ado, I present to you the women who made up OMcHodoy:
"O" is for "O'Rourke, as in my mother, Regina "Jean" Ann O'Rourke.

"Mc" is for "McHUGH", as in Noreen, Marianne, and AnnieMcHugh.

"Hod" is for "Hodick", as in Mary, Susan, Sylvestina and Justina Hodick.
"Doy" is for "Doyle" for Regina "Jean", Margaret, Mary Ann, Alice, Johanna and Anna Doyle.

Friday, March 5, 2010


If you by chance happen to be on Facebook, and if by chance you happen to have the same friend list as I have, you might by chance be wondering what all the WDYTYA'ing is all about. Unless, of course, you happen to know that tonight was NBC's debut of their series, Who Do You Think You Are?, a documentary walking celebrities through their family trees.  Tonight's debut episode featured Sarah Jessica Parker. Did you watch the show? If so, tell me what you thought.

I enjoyed this show much more than the PBS series, Faces of America if for one reason only: WDYTYA spent the entire episode on one person, whereas Faces of America bounces back and forth between several people in one episode. WDYTYA was much easier for me to follow.  To be fair, though, I only saw 2 of the Faces of America shows.

Thomas at Destination: Austin Family posted his thoughts very succinctly on his blog. I shared many of his thoughts, so I won't repeat them all here. But I will repeat one thing that struck me as well as Thomas:  The lack of narrative or explanation as to what goes into high-quality genealogical research.

I realize it was only an hour-long show and that they wanted to relay the story as it unfolded as opposed to how it unfolded, but just a quick statement here and there about the importance of the research process would have gone a long way.  I hope this doesn't sound cruel, because I really enjoyed the show and can't wait for the next episode, but I think it was a bit irresponsible not to bring up the process by which the researchers determined that the John S. Hodge in the 1850 Census record was the John S. Hodge Sarah Jessica Parker wanted to find. I suspect this show, as well as Faces of America, will bring new enthusiasts to the world of genealogy and it's important that we teach the beginners how to analyze data right from the start.  To do otherwise is akin to encouraging people to assume relationships based only on shared names on a historical document.

And we all know what happens when we assume things. 

All the same, I enjoyed the show, can't wait for the next one, and recommend it to any genealogy enthusiast.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Hardest Update

Genealogists get so excited over things that "normal" people don't: An obituary. A death certificate. A tombstone. We can be an odd bunch.

We also get excited over the additions we get to make to our genealogy databases because of information we find in an obituary. On a death certificate, or on a tombstone. We do the genealogical happy dance. We post a status update on Facebook. We tweet. it's all good.

Except when it's not.  Yesterday I had to make the most difficult change to my genealogy database that I ever had to make.


Dennis Joseph McHugh
17 Jan 1937 - 15 Feb 2010
Pictured in 1985 with Regina (Jean)(O'Rourke) McHugh
18 Jan 1938-13 Nov 1988
I Love You, Mom and Dad.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Super Bowl of Saturday Night Genealogy Fun

Thanks, Randy, for my favorite SNGF activities to date. I am one big NFL fan, and this was truly a blast! Here are the rules:
1) Tell us about your dream game of the Super Bowl of Genealogy!
* Where would it be played?
* What teams would play?
* Who would be the head coaches?
* Who would be the stars of the game?
* Who would win?
* Who are the cheerleaders?
* If you were playing in the game, what would be your dream play?

2) Who do you think will win the NFL Super Bowl Colts-Saints game on Sunday? Your score prediction, please!

3) Post your thoughts on your own blog, on a Facebook comment or Note, or as a comment on this blog post.

Welcome to the super-spectacular event of the year! What an exciting time for Pennsylvania, as the Nanticoke Miners take on the Pittston Roaders in the game of the year! It has been quite the ride for the DL & W Field to win the bid for the Super Bowl game; how exciting that the opponents would be Luzerne County’s very own rival teams? History has been made in Wilkes-Barre PA!

Coaching for the Nanticoke Miners we have a spirit: The spirit of Tennessee Ernie Ford. He is somewhat of a hero in these parts. Few people in the old mining towns of this area would tolerate a slight against the lamenter of the residents’ coal-mining ancestors. Though he may be a guest coach and a "spirit", he will be here for just this one game.  These fans would storm Canton if they thought it would earn Mr. Williams a spot in the National Football League Hall of Fame.

Coaching for the DL & W Roaders we have Mr. Lehigh as he’s known. Just as Williams is revered by the Miners, Lehigh is an icon for the railroading town of Pittston. Yes, folks, this game is rich in fans, who are expecting their teams to play as hard as their ancestors worked. Losing this game means more than just losing a game; it means disappointing the spirits of miners and railroaders past.

Starring for the Nanticoke Miners is Chevalier de la Luzerne IV, at the quarterback position. He is single-handedly expected to bring this team to victory, given that the county which is home to both teams was named after his great-grandfather.

On the other side of the game, we have Alack  Awanna who holds the record for the most receptions in the history of the game. He is doubly talented as a passer, as we are likely to see in the infamous Statue of Liberty play.  Awanna’s skills as a catcher have made the passing game of the Roaders the talk of the town, and believe me folks, it’s hard to beat the Railroading Industry as the topic of talk in this town. 

The game is likely to be close, but it is predicted that the Miners will walk away with the trophy, given that their cheerleaders, the Nanticoke Spokes, are the most zealous in the league. Adding to that dynamic is the half-time show, a star-studded spectacular honoring their famous one-time resident, Jerry Orbach.

Down south of Wilkes-Barre, another Super Bowl is about to be played, and given the propensity for big teams to win, I suspect this year will be an exception, and I predict one of the most exciting games ever as the Saints Go Marching On to a Win! I'll say 28-26.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Let's Go to Expo! Part 10!

We are really getting close to THE date, so I'd best get moving on my series of speaker intros for the Mesa, Az FH Expo! We've got a U.S. representative for Genline, AB. which offers access to Swedish records, some higher-ups who provide family history training to priesthood leaders, the founder of Heritage Quest!!!, and an instructor for the National Institute for Genealogical Studies! And more to follow those!

Kathy Meade volunteers at the Swedish American Museum in Chicago. She has a degree in history and she'll be presenting the following:

1/22 @ 10:00 a.m.    Beginning Swedish Genealogy
1/22 @ 11:30 a.m.    Doing Swedish Research in a Computer World

We have a Duo in our midst: Lance McIntosh and Brent Summerhays!  Both work at FamilySearch and both are active in training Family History Consultants. They will be providing such training in Mesa at the following times:

1/23 @ 1:00 Session One;  2:30 Session Two, and 4:00 Session Three.

Does Leland Meitzler need an introduction? Like so many other speakers, I don't think so. But he is the founder of Heritage Quest and he did serve as  the Managing Editor of both Heritage Quest Magazine and Everton's Genealogical Helper.  Are you ready for this entertaining instructor's speaking schedule?

1/22 @ 10:00  Organizing, Preserving, Accessing, and Sharing Your Genealogy Using Digital Documents and Pictures
1/22 @ 11:30  Using State and Territorial Censuses and Substitutes to Locate Your Family
1/23 @ 9:30    The Lay of the Land: Using Directories, Maps and Gazetteers
1/23 @ 11:00  Flames Over the Courthouse

 I'm intending to attend several of his presentations and I honestly can't wait!

Lisa Alzo is a genealogy instructor for GenClass and the National Institute of Genealogical Studies. She's authored 9 books. And she is also presenting at the Mesa Expo and I'm going to be attending at least one of her presentations!

1/23 @  2:30  Best Web Sites for East European Research
1/23 @ 4:00  Finding Your Elusive East European Ancestors

 If I could do this as a podcast, I would, because if I did, you'd know exactly who is up next!

Lisa Louise Cook, of The Genealogy Gems, is back for more fun in the sun (well, it's slated to rain, but it'll be fun anyway).  I am so excited to have her back, I can hardly type.  Her speaking schedule, at one point, anyway, interferes with my own presentation and I hope there's at least a small audience left for me!

1/22 @ 10:00  Google: A Goldmine of Genealogy Gems I
1/22 @ 11:30  Google: A Goldmine of Genealogy Gems II
1/23 @ 1:00    Solving Family Tree Mysteries with Google Earth

Mark Tucker Thinks Genealogy so much he named his blog after the activity!  He's a software architect and family history enthusiast all rolled up into one! His presentations are:

1/22 @ 11:00 Navigating Research with the Genealogical Proof Standard
1/23 @  8:00  The Twittering Genealogist

If you prefer to learn more than your ancestors' names and dates and wish to learn about them as people who at some level influenced your life, then Marlo Schuldt has the presentation for you!  Marlo is the President of LifeStory Productions, Inc. which produces software to assist in writing family histories! He is the one to talk to about learning how to gather information. You can hear him speak about his software:

1/23 @ 11:00 a.m. Heritage Collector Software Demonstration

Another expert at the Family History Writing process is Michael Booth, the Vice-President for Development at RootsMagic and the creator of Personal  Historian. Come see what he has to say on the subject:

1/22 @ 4:30  Mapping Your Family History with Family Atlas
1/23 @ 2:30  Personal Historian: Bringing Life to Your Life Stories

What better place for a lecture on Mexican, Central and South American research than Mesa, Arizona? And what better person to present on topics of interest in this area than Patsy Huber?  Patsy is a native Guatemalen, and she also is the resident expert at the Mesa Family History Center.  I'm so excited to announce her speaking schedule:

1/23 @ 9:30  Helping Mexican, and Central and South American Researchers in Your FHC or Ward
1/23 @ 11:00 How to Do Mexican Research and Be Successful at It

The Guide to Ancestral Research in London is a book I would be very interested in, and the author is just the one to tell me all about it.  Phillip Dunn, AG is speaking at the Mesa Expo as well!  Just so happens he has much to teach about Scottish, Welsh and Irish research too!

1/22 @ 1:30  Finding Your English/Welsh Ancestors
1/22 @ 3:00  Finding your Scottish Ancestors – What Do You Need to Do?
1/22 @ 4:30  Finding Your Irish Ancestors – Are There Really Any Records?

We also have the Senior VP of Product at Footnote.com coming to Mesa!  WOOHOO!  He once worked at The Generations Network, too so we are getting our money's worth and more! So who is this man?

It's Roger Bell!

1/22 @ 4:30  Everything You Wanted to Know About Footnote.com
1/23 @ 2:30  How Best to Search and Browse Footnote.com Content

Sue Clark is an experience speaker and an experienced author and an experienced genealogist.  She is also presenting on an issue near and dear to our ancestors' lives and to current generations' lives, as well: Immigration:

1/22 @ 1:30  Ellis Island and the Immigrant Experience

Just-a-lookat-a-dat-face!  Dat is the face of Suzanne Russo Adams, AG who just happens to have expertise in Italian research!  She is the Society Partnership Manager at Ancestry.com and will speak with us about the following:

1/23 @ 9:30  Simplifying Online Research with Ancestry.com Family Tree
1/23 @ 11:00 Immigration and Emigration Records Online

Timothy Cross is responsible. Yes, you heard me right. He is the one responsible for it all.  At least for it all regarding the Family Tree portion of the  new FamilySearch!  He will tell us all about it:

1/22 @ 11:30 new.familysearch.org: What’s New and Upcoming. He will repeat this presentation on 1/23 @ 11:00!

Now loook at the next face very carefully. It is the face of someone who is incredibly helpful, tech-savvy, and so energetic it makes me dizzy.

Thomas MacEntee (muh-KENT-ee, I believe it's pronounced; I'm sure he'll correct me if I'm wrong).  What better presenter to wrap up my series with?  Thomas is the technology and social networking guru of Geneabloggers and just wait until you see his speaking schedule!

1/22 @ 1:30 Twitter – It’s Not Just “What I Had for Breakfast” Anymore
1/23 @ 8:00 Become a Genealogy Blog User

Now I've been blogging about genealogy for almost 5 years now, and I still can't wait to hear what Thomas has to say!